FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, December 03, 2004

So Much for the "Liberal Media"...

Frank Rich has an eye-opening piece in the New York Times exploring what he calls the "Nascarization" of the network news media. He notes that the recent departures of Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw from the anchor chairs coinicide with a desire of the networks to appeal more strongly to audiences in "red" states, as well as the influence of conservative-skewing Fox News on the rest of the news media. He also has some interesting observations about bloggers in this new world of journalism:

The idea, largely but not exclusively fomented by the right, that TV news might somehow soon be supplanted by blogging as a mass medium may remain a populist fantasy until Americans are able to receive blogs by iPod. (At which point they become talk radio.) The dense text in the best blogs often requires as much of a reader's time and concentration as high-end print journalism, itself facing declining circulation. Since blogging doesn't generate big (if any) profits, there's no budget for its "citizen reporters" to reliably blanket catastrophic and far-flung breaking news. (There are no bloggers among the 36 journalists thus far killed in the Iraq war.) Bloggers can fact-check documents (as in the Rather case), opine, organize, talk back, leak early exit polls and publish multimedia outings of the seemingly endless supply of closeted gay Republican officials. But if bloggers are actually doing front-line reporting rather than commenting upon the news in a danger zone like Falluja, chances are that they are underwritten by a day job on the payroll of a major news organization.

On this point, Rich misses the mark a bit. I doubt that anyone -- least of all bloggers -- would seriously argue that blogs will replace TV news. Bloggers' value will continue to be as supplemental watchdogs, as well as to cover niche topics not of interest to the mass media but of importance to the "micromedia" that may appeal to a handful of people. And when this group agitates hard enough, or uncovers mistakes too blatant to ignore, the larger media will have to take notice. Case in point: Techdirt, one of our favorite emerging tech blogs, recently got some positive ink from no less a source than the Wall Street Journal, which noted its use by businesses seeking to monitor technology and emerging trends.

The tone of Rich's piece may only further convince you that the NYT is hopelessly out in left field. But Rich makes one salient point: Despite the long-predicted death of network news, the ratings of the three networks' evening news broadcast still surpass those of even the most popular cable news programs. To that end, network news remains both a potent influence on and a barometer of both the culture and the state of journalism.

Source: Boing Boing